Mindset Book Study: Chapter 2

It’s chapter 2 of our summer book study:  Mindset by Carol Dweck.
Last week we were introduced to the 2 mindsets:  fixed and growth.  This week we get into the details of the mindsets and how they can affect our success and growth.  
Here are my 3 takeaways from chapter 2:
How do I want to spend my time?  Do I want to spend my time proving myself to others and seeking validation?  Or do I want to spend that time stretching myself and learning new things and getting better?   
Think about it.  Which choice is a more valuable use of our time?  Sure I want people to see me as a smart and successful…but I really don’t want to spend my time and energy proving myself.  I would rather spend that time learning new things…stretching myself and getting better and smarter.    The more I stretch myself, the more I grow and the more I grow and stretch, the more people will see me as a success.
In this chapter, Dweck touches on assessments of our students and how that one assessment doesn’t define our students.  One assessment is simply a snapshot of a single moment in time.  That one data piece or assessment cannot and SHOULD NOT be used to define our students.    It simply is what it is.  A single point to consider and use in the big picture of the child.  
When I read the assessment section, of course I thought about how we use data to impact our students but something else hit me and caused me to have a more intense reaction.  
TEACHER EVALUATIONS.  We all have them.  We all loathe them.   They stress us out. They make us sweat so much it runs down our backs…and other places…(true story)…Those few minutes that an evaluator is in our classroom allegedly determines if we’re Exemplary or proficient or failing.  
So, let’s look at it through the mindset perspective:
That evaluation does not define me as a teacher.  It does not define my teaching ability.  It’s simply a snapshot of a few minutes of 1 lesson on 1 day with my students who are doing and behaving a certain way at 1 particular moment in time.  Good or bad.  It is not my teaching career or even my teaching day.  It’s imply a moment in time.
How I respond to that evaluation determines a lot.  I can let a less than stellar evaluation get me down.  I can think that I’m just OK since I received a 3.  And I can be ok with a 3.  (Fixed mindset).  Or I can look at my feedback (honestly….sometimes the feedback is less than helpful…trust me, I get it) and my scores and I can decide to be a 5 the next time.  I can seek out other teachers who received 5s and find out what they’re doing.  I can step up my planning and preparation. I can decide to grow and improve from that evaluation or I can be a 3 and be ok being average.  
The power of how I respond to my evaluations is mine.  I can’t evaluate myself, but I can decide how those numbers on the paper affect me.  Will I let those numbers convince me that I’m just an average teacher or will I let those numbers push me to better and better everyday?
Here’s my truth:  For the past 3 years, I have received 5s on my evaluations.  In our system a 5 is the best you can do.  In fact, when this system was rolled out, we were told and I quote “Even Jesus can’t get 5s…” (TRUTH PEOPLE!).  After the first 2 years, people started receiving 5s.  So after 3 years fo receiving all 5s, I moved to my current school.  I received a 3.  
People, that hurts.  It infuriates me.  Did I get upset and complain?  Yes because I’m human.  BUT I got over it and tried to do better.  Do I believe I’m an average teacher?  No way.   Do I believe I deserve 5s?  IF I have earned them, of course I deserve them.  So I took those numbers on that paper and used that motivate myself even more to grow and improve.  And on my next evaluation, my scores were much higher!   
In chapter 2 Dweck talks about relationships and seeing out our husbands, wives, boyfriends and girlfriends.  She talks about someone who puts on a pedestal (fixed mindset) or someone who will challenge us to grow and stretch ourselves (growth mindset).
As a read this I thought of mentors.  What kind of mentor am I?  To my students and my colleagues in the classrooms?
Am I someone who puts you on a pedestal and says everything you’re doing is awesome?  Or am I someone who is pushing you to stretch and grow?
Hopefully I am inspiring my students to grow and stretch and take risks.  And hopefully I am inspiring my teaching colleagues to grow and stretch themselves.
We all need people to push us and challenge us and provide us CONSTRUCTIVE criticism so we can grow.      Dweck says we need to be seeking out constructive criticism so we’re always learning.  TEACHERS NEED TO ALWAYS BE LEARNING!
Here’s my truth:  I despise teacher evaluations for many reasons but my biggest reason is that I don’t ever feel I receive constructive criticism to help me grow and improve my practice.  In fact, my principal encourages me to seek out people who can provide me with constructive criticism so I can grow and improve.  So what I have done is reach out to two of my college professors and ask them to watch videos of my teaching and lessons so they can provide me with constructive criticism.  
I also open my classroom to anyone who wants to visit and I ask those visitors what they saw that I can do better.  
Seek out constructive criticism so you can improve your practice and provide your students the best education possible!
(A note about constructive criticism:  I get it.  Teaching is hard and sometimes it turns into a competition.  STOP THAT!  It’s not a competition.  Please don’t tear others down or demean them or attack their teaching.  That only makes our jobs harder and adds unneeded stress to our lives.  We’re in this together.  We’re in this for one reason and one reason only:  OUR STUDENTS. Let’s make sure we’re helping each other grow and not attacking one another!)

Finally how I handle failure?  Do I let failure define me or do I deal with it and grow from it?
I remember a lesson idea where I spent hours making number templates for my class. We were going to use snap cubes to build the numbers.  The lesson started and BOMBED.  EPIC fail.  The templates were way to small for the actual number cubes.  Did I panic and beat myself up?  No.  I stopped the lesson.  I told my kids I had failed and messed up.  We even discussed what had gone wrong and how I could make the lesson better.  And we moved on.  I fixed the templates and we did the activity the next day with huge success.
I learned a lesson that I still follow today….always test out an activity before you try it with your kids!  
I also remember a science experiment we did in class where we used Peeps (yeah the gross squishy things people eat at Easter….) to make slime.  We followed the directions…but instead of slime, we got a big blob of sticky goo.  But guess what?  My kids had A BLAST playing with that goo.  We spent an hour just playing in that sticky goodness.   Sure, the slime lesson failed, but we turned that failure into something fun.  I could have stopped the lesson and clean up the mess but we would have lost out on a lesson about adapting and making the most of failures.
Don’t let failures define you.  Learn from them.  Grow from them.  And use those failures as a stepping stone into something awesome and glittery!
My favorite quote from chapter 2:
Find your paths to success!
You can also link up your blog posts about chapter 2 below!

Make sure to join me at 7:00 pm CENTRAL time tonight on my Facebook Page for our live discussion on chapter 2!  You don’t wanna miss it because last week’s discussion was amazing!


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